Arkansas AD Jeff Long is the chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)
Former NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt admitted he has at least one reason to be excited about assuming a role on the upcoming College Football Playoff selection committee.
"I now have a legitimate excuse for the four side-by-side television sets I've had tuned to college football," Jernstedt joked on Wednesday.
That same feeling was palpable as 12 of the 13 members of the newly unveiled College Football Playoff selection committee -- USC athletic director Pat Haden was unavailable -- addressed reporters on a conference call on Wednesday afternoon. One by one, the announced members of the committee expressed their excitement in being named to the upcoming selection committee, a group tasked with choosing the four teams to participate in the College Football Playoff. But each individual recognized the challenges ahead as they work to revamp the sport's much-maligned postseason.
"Everybody has their affiliation in their schools, but we are really in this for the good of college football and the fans and the athletes," said Mike Gould, a lieutenant general and former superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy. "We'll look at it from a large picture and do what's best for the larger picture, not just one conference or school."
"I had some trepidation about it because it's not going to be easy," said former Nebraska head coach and athletic director Tom Osborne. "Most years, the top two teams are readily identifiable, but identifying three, four, five, six, seven, eight [teams] will be difficult."
However challenging, the committee members said the opportunity to have a hand in the next stage of college football's postseason was too good to pass up.
"I've been committed to college football my entire adult life, and this is a humbling opportunity for me to give back," said Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez.
The 12 members of the committee addressed several issues surrounding the upcoming four-team playoff, which will kick off after the 2014 season. As names of potential committee members leaked during the past few weeks, many critics wondered if individuals tied to one particular school or conference could truly approach the selection process without bias. The inclusion of current athletic directors, in particular, had many people scratching their heads.
On Wednesday, several members spoke of the importance of integrity while serving on the committee, and Jernstedt in particular used his experience working with the NCAA men's basketball tournament as a reference point.
"I think to me the biggest similarity it's imperative for all committee members to check their loyalties and affiliations at the door," he said. "... We're going to work for the college football playoff and the management committee to make this the best it could possibly be."
There are five athletic directors and one former athletic director included among the committee's 13 members, but Clemson's Dan Radakovich said that administrative experience should be a plus in the group.
"I think the current athletic directors will be able to have a great pulse of not only the student athletes that are involved in this process, and they are of course the centerpiece associated with college football, but also understanding the inter-workings of their conference which they can bring into perspective," Radakovich said.
"We're immersed in college athletics... We want to bring that knowledge to this committee."
But as expected, the announced committee included several names not associated with the administrative or coaching side of college football: Archie Manning, a former Ole Miss and NFL quarterback; Condoleezza Rice, a Stanford professor and former Secretary of State; and Steve Wieberg, a former college football reporter for USA Today.
"There's a reason corporate boards are not all CEOs," said Rice, the daughter of a football coach. "[The management committee] wanted people who could make judgments under pressure, but they wanted people who loved college football. I certainly fit into that category."
Weinberg stands as the only media member included on the committee, an appointment he believes is fair when one considers his career in sports journalism.
"I've seen close to 200 football games in my life. Fifty-something NFL games in my life -- not watching those games casually, but watching those games analytically," he said. " I think Dr. Rice a while ago used the term 'educated eye.' We do have educated eyes, we're students of the game. I immersed myself in the basketball selection process... I'm pretty familiar with analyzing teams in that respect, analyzing the metrics and the reams of statistics you get."
Many members of the selection committee admitted that the ins and outs of the group's operation remain uncertain, though all members cemented the importance of transparency in the process. But how committee members view teams with injuries to key players late in the season, or those facing eight-game league schedules instead of nine-game league schedules, remains to be seen. Even speculation surrounding a larger playoff -- say, eight teams -- is "inevitable," as Wieberg said. "But if we do our job correctly, we'll mitigate that."
But when the College Football Playoff kicks off after next season, the committee members know their main goal is to improve upon the current BCS system and remove doubt from the sport's champion. And despite their different backgrounds, it's a task that must be completed together.
"We have a committee made up of people from various walks of life and experience in college football..." said Gould. "We should be able to add that human element and improve on what we got from the BCS rankings. We will use everything that is available. lots of data is out there, but being able to get together and talk and refine our criteria, I think, will be an improvement. Who knows where it will go from here."